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Fela Kuti The Black President : An Hour Remembering the Legendary Nigerian Afrobeat Singer, We Speak with his Son Femi and his Biographer Michael Veal
Six years ago this week over a million Nigerians took to the streets to mourn the death of Fela Kuti, the great bandleader and political dissident who had succumbed to AIDS. He is viewed by many as the greatest African musician of the last half-century.
By the time of his death in 1997 he had released 77 albums. He once established a short-lived independent country within Nigeria named the Kalakuta Republic. He was arrested some 356 times for his political dissidence.
In one case 1,000 troops under the dictator Obasanjo, now president again, stormed his compound with mortar fire. They repeatedly attacked, beat and raped members of Fela’s extended family. They threw his mother and brother from a window. Fela was hospitalized. His mother eventually died of her injuries. She was a well-known anti-colonialist and feminist. She started the Nigerian Women’s union and was an inspiration for Fela throughout his life. Following her death in 1978 Fela brought a replica of her coffin to Obasanjo’s house.
Fela established a new form of music, Afrobeat, which combined the funkiness of James Brown, the politics of Kwame Nkrumah, the soulfulness of John Coltrane with a base rooted in traditional African music.